This week:

  • I share some advice on how to reduce the chances students cheat — and ask for your perspective for a story I’m working on.
  • I describe some findings from a recent survey about professors’ and administrators’ confidence in online teaching.
  • I encourage you to share your pandemic-teaching questions and ideas.
  • I pass along some recent articles you may have missed.

How to Handle Cheating

Professors can’t completely stop students from cheating in online exams. But they can do a great deal to make it less tempting and less prevalent, as Flower Darby describes in the latest installment of her series on effective online teaching for The Chronicle.

Some professors rely on proctoring and other prevention tools, and others reduce the importance of grades in their courses. Darby, an instructional designer and the author, with James M. Lang, of Small Teaching Online: Applying Learning Science in Online Classes, lays out a middle course: Make exams open-book, open-note, and lower-stakes. Students are more inclined to cheat under stress, she writes, so reducing the pressure they feel can go a long way.

Darby offers seven ideas for assessing students while mitigating cheating. Among them: Giving more tests that each carry less weight and having students sign an honor statement. The broader goal, she writes, is finding ways to “both meaningfully assess student learning and foster academic integrity.”

Students cheat on in-person exams, and cheating on a test isn’t the only way to violate academic integrity. Still, the move to remote instruction has put worries about exam cheating front and center for many faculty members. That, in turn, has put them at odds with colleagues — and many teaching experts — who don’t think cheating should be professors’ primary focus in their teaching — especially not during a pandemic.

Professors’ strong and divergent views on cheating have been apparent in reader reaction to a story I wrote back in the spring on how instructors were giving final exams, in the discussion during a recent virtual event I hosted on assessment, and around the edges of nearly every conversation about teaching I’ve heard in the past several months.

I’m working on a story about all of this now. So if you’ve caught students cheating in your remote classes, worry a lot that it’s happening, or have strong ideas about why cheating matters, how best to reduce it, or what’s missing from this discussion, I’d love to hear from you:

Ready for an Online Fall?

A strong majority of professors — and an even stronger one of administrators — felt confident about their readiness to teach online this fall, if necessary, according to a new report.

Eight-four percent of instructors and 96 percent of administrators surveyed in August by Bay View Analytics in partnership with Cengage, among other groups, reported they were prepared to go all or fully online.

On top of their confidence about being ready for a remote fall term, respondents expressed a good deal of optimism in higher education, their own institutions, and their own role.

Tell Us What’s It’s Like Teaching During the Pandemic

As Beth shared last week, we’re collecting instructors’ pandemic-teaching stories — and their questions, too. Whether you are teaching in person, in hybrid form, or fully online, we would like to hear from you. Were you prepared for what you’re handling now? If not, what has been unexpected? Are you trying new strategies in your course? Do you need advice on an ongoing problem? Use this form to tell us about it. We may share your stories, insights, and requests for advice in an upcoming newsletter.

Looking over the responses we’ve gotten so far, I noticed that one experienced instructor wondered why students weren’t watching the videos she was making for her course. Meanwhile, Kanchan Mathur, a mathematics professor at Clark College, described an approach that might help: “making really short videos and following them up with low-stakes quizzes to make sure students watched, understood, and absorbed.”

We look forward to reading — and sharing — more of your questions and ideas.


  • “Contemporary college pedagogy takes place under duress,” writes Ryan Boyd, who teaches in the writing program at the University of Southern California, in this piece reviewing the new book Syllabus (Princeton University Press) for The Chronicle.
  • Bonni Stachowiak shares tips for facilitating effective Zoom breakout rooms in her latest column for EdSurge.
  • Students aren’t just dealing with your remote course — they’re unexpectedly juggling a full slate of them, reminds Robin DeRosa in this thought-provoking Twitter thread.

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